Jeanne Julian – 4 poems

INTERVENTION

 

“Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”

~ Mary Oliver

Her careful hands, held apart,

fingers curved around

some unseen crystal ball,

lower toward

the moth, splayed motionless

in morning sunlight,

blending with weathered wood,

as if sapping its hue and pattern—

then aflutter,

on each hind wing

markings, round blue eyes,

blink, open, closed, open,

to thank

or to deflect,

as without touch she shepherds

away from footfall

the humble assemblage

of membrane, scale, and lymph,

light and fragile

as ash,

snuffed or saved (which?)

when enfolded by the dark, for

she finds no decorative creature

awaiting her return that night.


🍃

I NEVER TOLD MY MOTHER

 

That a mean girl teased me

as I still struggled to get my boots on

when recess had already ended.

That a single bed taught me

and the bearded boy with long hair

the press and release of desire.

That I wept and wept because she noticed

fingerprints on the refrigerator

after I’d spent all day cleaning.

That I was elated one evening as we left the beach 

carrying bunches of sea oats, and she caroled

 “Bringing in the Sheaves” in spirited, 4/4 aria.

That when alone with her body

before it burned, touching her cold skull,

I longed for her to tell me anything at all.


🍃

DIRGE FOR THE JAZZ MAN

 

For Tom Mallison

 

Sunday evenings,

his invisible congregants

tuned in to revel

in the puzzles of jazz:

jams, jests, jive, raw jittery mojo,

patina of old brass,

eros of a smooth chanteuse,

fresh risks of chord and discord,

improvised or songbook straight—

whatever the cats played back then

or cook up now. No notes of his own,

sang no song, our angel Gabriel:

devoted only to annunciation,

self-effacing, soft-spoken

sharing of sound.

 

Then, tragic

back road cacophony:

truck crashing into car

killed that acolyte.

Such harsh news struck

as ear-shattering blasphemy:

chaotic metal on metal on flesh

on bone. Then too much silence.

Then shrill sirens lacerating dark

like some tenor sax descant,

an eerie, bleak release in a minor key.

 

A longer silence followed.

Seeing in every split-

rail fence, barred gate,

or wires paired against blank sky

an empty staff, no clef. 

 

But listen, he says. Listen

to what they say after

the slow march along St. Philip:

“cut the body loose.”

And we in the second line,

tutorless, suited in blue,

yeah, dig that music but no,

not yet ready

to dance.


🍃

DESIGN: A SEMINAR, 1982

 

“Interestingly enough,

proportion has been around

since the fourth century B.C.,”

says Mrs. Baedeker.

 

So far we’re alert, here

in the Lenox Hotel’s Dome Room,

illuminated more for waltzing

than for learning layout.

Blue light rims the circular ceiling

like some big gas range burner turned low.

 

In this difficult gloom everyone

jots notes in the back of the yellow

course manual, except the inevitable

pair of young nuns who take

dictation in their own three-ring

binders:  “The essence of graphics

is a clear message pleasing to the eye—

ideas through art.”

 

Mrs. Baedeker asks,

“What gives a person an idea?”

We ponder where to place

the block of text, the pull quote,

the photograph, the cutline,

the copyrighted illustration.

We strain to arrange,

as we have been arranged,

punctuating these extended tables.

 

You, representatives of the Coast Guard

and Harness Horsemen International!

You, from Stop & Shop, with the Greek accent!

You, the gent named Diamond

from Pilgrim Plastic Products!

If you knew this: within the year,

some software will make obsolete

X-Acto knives, t-squares, rubylith—

obliterating all these tools and lessons, all

except a few principles, observations,

as, where one’s gaze lands upon a page,

(as long as pages may endure)—

would you then excuse yourself, leap out

of the hotel restroom window

wide open to warm radiance

and run down the city street muddled

with the random yeast of spring?


🍃

Jeanne Julian’s chapbook, Blossom and Loss, was published by Longleaf Press in 2015. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Naugatuck River Review, Poetry Quarterly, Kakalak, Earth’s Daughters, Spank the Carp, and The Lascaux Prize 2016 Anthology (forthcoming). Her work also has won awards in competitions sponsored by The Comstock Review, The North Carolina Poetry Society, The Lanier Library, the Asheville Writers’ Workshop, and Carteret Writers. Two recent Nature Inspiredanthologies include several of her photographs as well as one of her poems. She was the featured photographer in moonShine review, Summer 2015. www.jeannejulian.com

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